For some farmers, the current mango season means more money in their pockets, but for farmers in Tana River County, the season brings nothing but lamentations.
Visit any part of the county and you will be greeted by the stench of rotten mangoes. Reason? A lack of market because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the mango season in November, an estimated 20,000 tonnes of the fruit has gone to waste as processing companies cut orders from farmers complaining of lack of demand as a result of the pandemic.
Dozens of farmers told the Nation they expect more losses as no one is interested in buying their mangoes.
Regular buyers have reduced their orders by half, while others have completely suspended this year’s booking.
The farmers are appealing to the government to negotiate for export deals with India and Pakistan to save them from losses since there is demand in those countries.
"We have a huge potential here that is yet to be tapped. What we supply in the local market is barely half of what we have in our farms. Therefore, if we can get the means to deliver them to the two countries during their low season, the farmer down here will gain a lot," said Mr Mohammed Maro, a farmer.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19
Local industries have reduced their intake since the outbreak of Covid-19, leaving farmers to hawk their produce on the streets.
As a result, they are not getting value for the crop, owing to exploitation from middlemen who pay only Sh2 per fruit.
"The farmers are now slaves to middlemen. For lack of a better alternative, they sell the mangoes at Sh2 per fruit, and sometimes even Sh1," lamented Mr Joseph Jillo.
The unique local Ngowe mango variety accounts for 17 per cent of pulp production in Kenya, with Tana River County solely supplying pulp and juice factories, while Lamu and Kilifi counties supply local markets.
"The Ngowe variety is majorly found in the coast region and processors prefer it. …Negotiate with the two countries, we just need the government to give it a push," said Mr Salim Maneno, also a farmer.
The farmers have urged the government to seek a Sh25 bargain for every kilogramme of sizes nine and 10 of the fruit.
They also urged the government to upgrade the Malindi and Lamu airports to handle cargo flights in an effort to cut the cost of road transport.
"We understand that Mombasa airport can handle this, but if we can have the Lamu and Malindi airports, it will be much easier for us since we still have a lot to export from the North Coast apart from the mangoes," said Joash Kiarie.
The farmers expressed disappointment over the stalled Galole Fruit Processing plant renovation that was meant to save them from losses.
The plant that was supposed to process 40,000 tonnes of pulp has since gone quiet despite the installation of new machines that cost tax payers more than Sh75 million.
The machines roared back to life for barely six hours in November 2019, before going quiet once again.